‘Death of a Salesman’ more relevant than ever, says New York Times

by Shaun Manning on March 9, 2012

In conjunction with the upcoming Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the New York Times published an essay on the play’s historical and modern contexts, an article that will launch an online conversation of Salesman on the Arts Beat blog.

“There is never a wrong time to take a fresh look at a great work of art,” writer Charles Isherwood says. “But some moments are riper than others for re-encountering plays in particular, which are most fully alive when they are onstage, and then retreat to the bookshelves — or digital form, today — when they are not being performed. The current moment could hardly be more opportune for another wrenching rendezvous with Willy Loman, the American dreamer fighting a losing battle with fortune in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” Isherwood goes on to say that, “With employment continuing to lag and millions of homes in foreclosure, there are surely many men and women avoiding the mirror and its accusations, believing, like Willy, that their inability to achieve the golden ideal of financial success is somehow a personal indictment.”

Isherwood also makes mention of something Miller could not have anticipated when he wrote Salesman more than 50 years ago: “Thanks to the explosion in social media, being ‘well liked’ has become practically a profession in itself. Adults as well as teenagers keep assiduous count of their Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and surely are inwardly if not outwardly measuring their worth by the rise or fall of the number.”

The new Broadway production debuts March 15, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Linda Emond, and Andrew Garfield.

The University of Michigan Press has published several books on Miller and his work, most recently the biography Arthur Miller: 1962-2005 by Christopher Bigsby. Other titles include Arthur Miller’s America: Theater and Culture in a Time of Change and Arthur Miller’s Global Theater, both edited by Enoch Brater, Jeffrey D. Mason’s Stone Tower: The Political Theater of Arthur Miller, and Henry Bial’s Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen.

 

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